On March 18th, 2020, President Donald Trump signed into law the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act,” or “Act,” which is legislation aimed to offer temporary emergency paid sick leave relief to employees affected by the COVID-19 virus.
Employees who work for the government or for a company with fewer than 500 employees, regardless of length of tenure, are eligible for paid sick leave under the Act if they meet at least one of the following conditions:
- The employee is subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation due to COVID-19;
- A health care provider advised the employee to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19 (self-imposed quarantine without medical advice does not qualify under the Act);
- The employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis;
- The employee is caring for an individual who is either subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation due to COVID-19 or has been advised to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19;
- The employee is caring for the employee’s child whose school has been closed or place of care is unavailable due to COVID-19 precautions; or
- The employee is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with the Secretaries of Treasury and Labor.
Full-time employees will be entitled to 80 hours’ worth of paid sick time. Part-time employees will be entitled to the number of hours they normally work in a two-week period. In calculating the pay benefit, the Act allows the following:
- For conditions 1, 2, and 3 (listed above), eligible employees will receive paid sick leave at their regular rate of pay, except that in no event the amount paid should exceed $511 per day and $5,110 in total.
- For conditions 4, 5, and 6 (listed above), eligible employees will receive paid sick leave at two-thirds of their regular rate, except that in no event shall the amount paid exceed $200 per day and $2,000 total.
Paid sick leave under this Act does not carry over from year to year and being paid the sick time will stop beginning with an employee’s next scheduled work shift immediately following the original need for the paid time. The employer can seek reimbursement for the emergency wages paid to the employees through tax credits applicable to the employer’s portion of Social Security taxes.
Employers cannot require eligible employees to use other company provided paid leave first before using the new paid sick leave under the Act, which means that this leave is in addition to any paid sick leave or PTO currently provided by employers. Employers also cannot require employees to give advanced notice prior to the start of taking this paid sick leave. Employers can however require employees to follow reasonable notice procedures to continue receiving paid sick time after the first workday they are off.
Finally, employers must post a notice that advises employees of their rights under the Act. The United States Secretary of Labor is required to create a notice by March 25. (Note: Once published, Personnel Concepts subscribers will receive this mandatory update automatically in both digital and print format).
The Act states that U.S. Department of Labor can exempt businesses with fewer than 50 employees from providing the paid emergency leave when it would jeopardize the business’ viability. Companies with more than 500 employees are also excluded from the paid leave regulation.
The new law takes effect on April 1st, 2020 and will remain effective until December 31st, 2020.